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Canada’s Impaired Driving Laws - Bill C-46 Updates

Recently the National Post wrote about reforms that were made to Bill C-46 in regards to alcohol and drug impaired driving. The changes are significant, and have raised some cause for concern. The three changes stirring up conversation are as follows:

Random roadside breath testing

  • Starting in December 2018, it will no longer be mandatory for police to have reasonable suspicion that the driver has been drinking to request a roadside breath test. If refused, criminal charges and penalties can be applied.

Roadside saliva testing

  • Police officers will be able to use roadside saliva screening devices that detect the presence of cocaine, methamphetamine and THC. They WILL require reasonable suspicion to request this test.
  • At this time, the device itself is not in the hands of the police force. The devices are still in the preliminary stages of being sourced out, and tested.

THC blood levels

  • There is no current device that tests for THC impairment, however, the government has decided to take a 'zero-tolerance' approach to THC until the science for THC impairment improves. They are setting a "per-se" THC blood level with the following parameters:

  • THC level between 2 and 5ng would be considered a lower-level offence and a fine of up to $1000.
  • THC level above 5ng and/or a mixture of THC levels above 2.5g and a blood alcohol concentration above 50mg/100mL would come with the same penalties as an alcohol-impaired driving conviction.

It appears that the most controversial of these changes is the random roadside breath testing. In the event there is reasonable suspicion, there are little to no concerns for a police officer to request a breath test. However, random testing has always been a tough subject as it raises concerns as to whether or not it is fair to request a test when there is no documented proof that an individual is showing signs and symptoms of impairment. That being said, impaired driving can kill, and our police force should have the authority to conduct testing and potentially catch impaired drivers who could have otherwise fell through the cracks. 

With the upcoming legalization of marijuana, and the lack of a device that detects impairment, it is necessary to be proactive and implement testing policies and procedures based off of the science and information we currently have. As the science improves, so will the rules and regulations surrounding THC impairment. 

While these changes may appear to be harsh on Canadians, they are ultimately designed to benefit us and it is positive to see our law enforcement policies improving and adapting with today’s impairment challenges.